As you may know, I am currently doing a Diploma in Christian Studies with Regent College, Vancouver (distance learning, obv! For full story of why, just ask;) One of the requirements of this is to take part in online discussions with fellow students. A thread I have been posting on has concerned whether one observes the Sabbath as a modern Christian and, if so, how.
One of the immediate barriers to Sabbath observation for many of us is that we attend church on a Sunday (which is generally recognised as being the Sabbath in the western Christian tradition). So, whilst many people are using this day as an opportunity for a long lie-in, the more conscientious of us are dragging ourseves to church. Can anybody fail to see the irony of the fact that Christians, as a group, will be getting up earlier on their ‘day of rest’ than the majority of the remainder of the population? Add to that the fact that many of us do some form of service on a Sunday whilst at church (surely ‘work’ then?) and it gets even more confusing. As for the full time paid minitsers, well, what more need I say?
That’s only the first barirer. How about the fact that the employment of many people (emergency services etc) requires work on a Sunday? Also, consider the general cultural trend towards Sunday being no different to the rest of the week.
However, do we dig our heels in and do nothing on the Sabbath, refusing to buy a Sunday paper on principle? Personally, I think that is a little extreme, but I am aware that it is a view held by some.
As a form of solution, I seek to take a day out each week where I do no work. For the reasons stated above this cannot be a Sunday, so my day of choice is Tuesday. It is a day off from paid employment, which is a good start. So, what do I do instead of working? Stay in bed all day? Read the Bible all day? Pray all day? What counts as ‘work’ anyway? Do I even wash the dishes that day?*
Since I began this ‘experiment’, it has panned out this way:-
– Slow start, leisurely breakfast, ensuring that I begin the day with prayer and bible reading (generally brief)
– Go for a walk – slowly! The purpose of this is to communicate with the Lord via nature (yeah, sounds like weird hippy stuff!) Seriously, tho, I really do get a sense of being close to God when strolling down country lanes. Lunch sometime around now.
– Come home, concentrated prayer and Bible time.
– Sometimes (oh, the shame) watch God-telly. Have surprisinly found some of the lecture/sermon bits helpful.
– May visit friend at some point in day for food and fellowship(!)
(Day interspersed with much fussing of cats. V restful!)
So, is that what God intended?
The balance I endeavour to strike is between legalism and self-gratification. My initial stance when beginning the online discussion was a reaction to the over-zealous (imho) ‘keep Sunday special’ ideal which, to my mind, was overly prescriptive and reeked of a starchy, legalistic, Sunday-best mentality. However, I began to think that my leaning towards a relaxing and fun Sabbath paid to little heed of the idea of self-denial and recognition of the holiness and ‘other-ness’ of God.
Another stumbling-block for many of us is that fact that life is just so busy. The fact that I can carve out sacred time, if it try, is surely a luxury. I’m guessing that work, family, church and other commitments would render this well nigh impossible for many. So, what is the answer?
I have become more convinced than ever that keeping the Sabbath is vital to our health – physical, mental and spiritual. I think it is pretty important for the planet we live on too. Life, I think, has become far too fast paced for the way we have been made. There is no doubt that God ordained a day of rest for the benefit of his creatures and his creation. Surely, then, the question of whether we observe it is answered with a resounding yes.
All that remains is to work out how we can do this in our present time and culture.
Bet you wish I’d stuck to asking whether you preferred tea to coffee?
*For the record, the washing up does get done on my Tuesday of rest.